Intermarriage and Reality TV

Reality dating shows are, in general, a train wreck. Especially dating shows in which people compete for another person’s affection. Everyone is forced to act “natural” in front of a camera while they connive and back stab their way into the heart of either the man or woman at the center of the show. Kind of makes you yearn for simpler times when parents made all the decisions in love.

Perhaps that’s what gave NBC the idea for their newest dating show, Momma’s Boys. The premise is this: Three men compete for the love and affection of a pool of women, with a catch. The men are momma’s boys, and their moms are along for the ride, watching and offering their opinions the whole time.

It so happens that Rob and Esther, one of the mother/son combinations, are Jewish. And this has, for better or for worse, brought out issues of interfaith relationships. Only one of the girls the men can choose from, Lauren, is Jewish. But Rob doesn’t think he has chemistry with Lauren. He likes Camille. Esther thinks Lauren is the only girl Rob should pursue a relationship with because she’s Jewish. This all came to a head in a recent episode in which the three male contestants had to throw Christmas and Hanukkah parties. It was at the end of this episode when Esther laid out, in no uncertain terms, her thoughts on Rob’s future. According to various online episode summaries, Esther said Camille isn’t “good enough” for Rob because she isn’t Jewish, and that’s the end of the story as far as she is concerned. Part of Esther’s outlook, it’s explained, comes from the fact that her parents are holocaust survivors who rebuilt their lives in America.

We have here the two basic sides to the intermarriage argument: Esther thinks that marrying in is the only way for Rob to properly nurture his future children’s Jewish identity and honor his family’s traditions. Rob doesn’t believe he needs to forsake his feelings for another just to marry a Jewish woman. How will it end? Will Rob succumb to his mom’s pressure (which is possible since the show is about momma’s boys), or will he make his own decision?

Admittedly, reality TV, with its manipulative editing to achieve the most sensationalistic results, is not the ideal place to see this debate carried out. But for those watching who might find themselves in a similar situation, it’s a place to start. In that respect, we are glad these issues are raised and we’re interested to see how this dynamic plays out as the show goes on.


  1. There’s no indication from what’s written here that Rob wants Rob to have a Jewish future. If that’s so then Rob marrying a Gentile will end his ‘line’ in the Jewish peoplehood.

    Now even if such a Rob marries Jewish there’s still no guarantee that the line won’t end with him. But depending on the Jewish woman there’s at least hope. With him marrying Gentile there’s none.

    Comment by Dave — January 18, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  2. Is a Jewish ” line ” without substance worth better than no line at all?
    If you’re not going to walk the walk then don’t talk the talk.

    Comment by Ell — January 20, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  3. Until a few years ago, my husband was Jewish, I was NOT. His family was so accepting of me, that I decided to take the Conversion course to find out more about Judiasm. It ended up that after taking the course, I liked so much what I heard that I ended up converting.

    My point is, you never know what the future holds. Ultimately I think a good person, who loves and accepts you is far more important than race or religion. Rob is young, and whoever he marries is likely to love him enough to at least find out all she can about his faith.

    If his mother wants Judiasm to remain important in her son’s life, then the best step she can take is to love whoever he chooses, and welcome them into every aspect of thier Jewish lives.

    Had my Jewish Mother in Law not accepted me, I’m sure I would have been less responsive to finding out more about Judiasm.

    Comment by Sarma — January 21, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  4. It is so unfair of Jewish parents….they raise their children with no Yiddishkit… no Judaism in the home. Sure, they light Chanukah candles - they have the family over for Passover (I was offered Shrimp at one family sedar ), they even go to schul 3 times a year- But - GD forbid the children should want to marry outside the religion- unheard of!!!

    Where were the parents- where was the teaching by example when the kids were growing up? It’s like closing the barn door after the cows got out. A little late.

    If we raise our children to be their own person - to be free thinkers, then we HAVE to accept the choices they make.

    Comment by Ell — January 22, 2009 @ 7:47 am

  5. the concept of this reality show is so ridiculous…then again, anything seems to draw ratings these days.

    Rob and Esther both have their opinions, and are certainly entitled to express them. but ultimately, the decision belongs to Rob and it may not be the choice Esther hopes for. should he choose Lauren just because she’s Jewish? not if they lack chemistry and compatibility. sharing a religion is helpful, but doesn’t guarantee success or happiness in a relationship. this doesn’t mean he should choose Camille either. he could wind up miserable with either of them, and it may have nothing to do with what religion they are.

    Comment by h. — January 22, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

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